Desire Paths

desire path usually represents the shortest or most easily navigated route between an origin and a destination. The path can be created as a consequence of foot or bicycle traffic. These are also known as desire lines, social trails, or (the best one) goat tracks. It’s the simplest solution in getting from point A to point B.

I spent the weekend with Eric Gallagher from Discipleship Focused Youth Ministry. He challenged me and my team. He introduced us to the concept of a desire path. You’ve seen them before, it’s the shortcut through the grass that eventually wears out the grass into a path. But, (you might ask) what about the roads? They’re still worth it, right? Sure, the walk might take a bit longer, but they go past the showcased shops and sections.

In ministry, we build roads. As ministers, we create things we are proud of and then we create processes that require people to experience them. They take longer, but we do it anyway. And often, by whoever is brave enough to create it, someone begins to form a desire path. The most natural path. It’s a rocky start and takes large amounts of time, but in the end these paths prove their value even when the large majority may still be taking the paved road.

I was challenged to consider the reality
that a particular program or process might not fit every single student.
I ask you to consider the same.

Early in his pontificate, Pope Benedict was asked, “How many ways are there to get to heaven?” Pope Benedict responded, “There are as many ways to get to heaven as there are people on this earth.” What an extraordinary statement. God, in his love, encounters each of us uniquely; he reaches out to us in a way that we can understand. -Brian Niemiec

Does your parish and all of their many programs echo this sentiment, or is there only one path for sacramental preparation? Only one way for a teenager to plug into the faith through youth ministry? If you have 100 teens in your parish, then there must be 100 unique ways to reach out to them. I would stress the value of quality small group ministries here, but I digress.


Desire paths are necessary in ministry in order to bring everyone
to the same destination, a living relationship with Christ.

What can you learn from desire paths in ministry? Yes, they are a bit more difficult to navigate as the edges are not well defined. Clearly these paths are not for everyone. However, it does seem like an adventure to explore them. Maybe there is a student who does not fit into the traditional paradigm of your programming offered. Maybe the way things have been set up in the past reach a demographic that is no longer present.

As Christ the Good Shephard modeled leaving the 99 to chase after the lost sheep, it is apparent that desire paths must exist in ministry. It took more time to free the lost sheep, it required the full attention of the shepherd, but this action ultimately led to the shepherd and his sheep being together. Unity, or lower case ‘c’ catholic, is the goal. Desire paths arrive at the same destination as the paved way. Every student is unique and not every program can fit every student.

[tweetthis]In ministry we must bring all to the same place, a #relationship with Christ.[/tweetthis]


Thanks Eric for inspiring this post. I encourage Next Level readers to check him out at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *